Our Best Stories About Music and Sound From 2013

"Trust Me, I'm a Scientist"2013 has been another monster year for Scientist. We started the year with about 25,000 visits each month, and ended up peaking as high as 70,000.

This has mostly been because you’ve been sharing our stories via social media, and opening up our monthly newsletters at rates higher than we ever could have hoped for. So thank you for that.

But as much Scientist as you read, chances are you missed at least one of our biggest stories of the year. Below is a recap of some of the most widely-shared, “greatest hits” of 2013. We hope you enjoy.

Music Business

In tumultuous and uncertain times like these, it should come as no surprise that once again, some of our most popular articles of the year were ones that focused on the business side of music and other creative pursuits.

You were especially responsive whenever we ran stories about the essential facts and figures that go into making, releasing, and now, streaming music.

Earlier this year, we explored The Time and Cost of Making a Full Length Album, ultimately following up on that incredibly popular story and using the band NIRVANA as a historical case study.

We also explored options, both new and old, for Keeping Physical Releases Relevant in the 21st Century. We balanced this out by taking a somewhat more critical and pragmatic look at some of the recent mainstream “trend” pieces in our big story on Why Vinyl is NOT Going to Save the Music Industry (And What Will).

Naturally, we couldn’t avoid looking into both the pros and cons of music streaming. Once again, we dredged up the real facts on How Much Spotify Pays Now, and then offered some advice on how much musicians should demand in the long term.

We also ran a Fact-Check of One of My Heroes, David Byrne, on one of his misleading comments around streaming services and rates, while also Holding Pandora Radio’s Feet to the Fire over their efforts to reduce musicians’ pay.

When it comes to video streams, we looked how you can Take Control of Your Music Online using new services that protect your rights on YouTube.

Of course, there’s more to music business than just the numbers: Blake Madden studied how the Swedes help develop their robust music market through early childhood education, explored how musicians and venue owners can get along, and looked at how Ticketmaster’s service fees work (and why they seem so damn high.)

Improving Your Craft

Whenever there’s a down musical economy, as there has been for the past decade, it means it’s time to start honing your craft and looking for new opportunities to move forward.

To that end, we launched a multi-part series exploring one of the most important parts of the musician’s toolkit: Deliberate Practice.

Not only did we explore the how and why of meaningful, targeted practice, we also offered our own suggestions on precisely what musicians, engineers and creative entrepreneurs might practice to get ahead.

Blake Madden rounded out the series by scraping away the nonsense and taking an honest and much-needed look at how child prodigies are created — and what becomes of them. He also traces his own path through music, and that of others, in “Your (Long, Arduous, Doubt-Inducing, Bipolar) Surefire Path to Success.”

For those of you who want to take your audio education to the next level through an organized program, we present “Audio School”: A roundup of boutique recording workshops and education programs.

Audio Gear and Recording Techniques

This year we also launched a multi-part video class on Fundamental Drum Mic Techniques, exploring Overhead Mic Placements, Close Mic Techniques, and a myriad of options for Placing Room Mics.

As always, we ran with some research-focused audio shootouts, including Rich Bennett’s roundup of Odd and Unusual Guitar Picks. In one of my favorite audio gear reviews of the year, we cut through the BS and noise and asked some of our favorite producers and engineers for their “Big Wins”: a select few of those audio upgrades that really mattered for them.

We also issued our now-infamous “Golden Ear Challenge“, offering a prize and bragging rights to anyone who can demonstrate that they can reliably hear a difference between super-high and standard resolution audio files. That reward still remains unclaimed.

(Few, if any, potential challengers seem to be able to get past the “first try a blind listening test for yourself” part. This now includes several honest GRAMMY-winning engineers who will remain nameless.)

While we’re on the subject of digital audio resolutions, we invite you to clear your mind of some of the most common misconceptions around digital audio. These are things we didn’t even fully understand ourselves until we had to start writing about them for publication.

On that front, two more of our biggest hits of the year have been “The Science of Sample Rates: When Higher Is Better, and When It Isn’t” and “Why (Almost) Everything You Thought You Knew About Bit Depth Is Probably Wrong.

Taking Care of Yourself

At Scientist, we’re all about bringing some solid, practical research and advice into a sometimes impractical field. To that end, we released one of our most important stories of the year: The Independent Musician’s Guide To Not Going Broke. In this story, you’re invited to learn some of the most credible, time-tested strategies for building financial freedom in a field that’s often especially challenging on that front.

Oregon Trail: You Have Died of ExposureIn addition, we investigated the ins and outs of the controversial new American health care law, calling it “The Uninsured Musician’s Guide To The Affordable Care Act.” Whether you think it’s a good law or a bad one, it does go into effect next year. In this article, you can learn exactly what you’ve got to do, as an individual, and how this new law is likely to affect you. It quickly became one of our most popular stories of the year.

While we’re on the subject of laws, it’s important to keep abreast of new developments in “Unpaid Intern Lawsuits: What Every Studio Owner Should Know.” Some studios are getting hit by the hammer of the law (whether justly or unjustly), and some young workers are being exploited for free labor under conditions where they might not be getting much of anything in return.

To help avoid mixups and bad situations like these, we offered our comprehensive take on When To Work For Free (And When Not To), so that you don’t end up “dying of exposure”.

But before you decide to follow or ignore any of this advice, perhaps it’s time to take honest stock of your own personal relationship with music and think about precisely what you want from it. Before you get too far, we invite you to read “How to Tell If You’re an Amateur Musician” and decide what you want for yourself.

Write Your Own Story

If you’d ever like to contribute your own stories, just reach out. As of 2013, we pay.

Above is just a tiny sampling of some of our big features from 2013. In addition to these, we ran countless articles and guest posts, from record reviews to studio tours, producer profiles to in-studio experiences, and many of our thoughts on where the industry has been and where it’s headed.

We invite you to read and share as much as you like. If you only have a little while, any one of the above stories should be a fun read that leaves you better informed than when you came in. I know that each of us here at Scientist became a little bit smarter for having worked on them.

Thanks again for reading. Happy tracking, and good fortune to you in 2014.

Justin Colletti is a producer/engineer, journalist, and educator.

This entry was posted in All Stories, December 2013, Featured Stories, Most Popular. Bookmark the permalink. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.
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